20 Mar 2012

Funeral plans for Tonga's king announced

5:30 pm on 20 March 2012

Arrangements have been made for the funeral of Tonga's King George Tupou V who died in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The 63-year-old, who ruled for six years, will be laid to rest at the Mala'ekula Royal Tombs in Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa on 28 March.

He will lie in state for two days and the funeral is expected to include a procession similar to that held for his father, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.

Tongan flags in the tiny Pacific kingdom and abroad are flying at half-mast as a sign of respect, while people have begun a period of mourning wearing black and waist-mats to show their grief.

Some businesses in Nuku'alofa have started to drape their buildings in black out of respect to the royal family.

The United States president, Barack Obama, says America has lost a friend and the people of Tonga have lost a visionary leader.

In a statement, Mr Obama says Tonga is one of the closest partners the US has among the Pacific Island states, and it is

grateful for Tonga's role in Afghanistan.